Race 15 of 33: John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at Kentucky Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile tri-oval
Weather: Cloudy, 72 degrees
Race Winner: Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick and the No. 5 Kroger / Crest / Prilosec OTC team made JR Motorsports history by earning the company’s fifth NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season in Friday night’s John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Harvick’s late pass of Kyle Busch helped secure the win, besting the team’s previous single-season record of four victories.
Harvick raced his way into the top five early on, but found himself mired in third and fourth throughout the race’s opening 100 laps.
Crew chief Ernie Cope elected to get Harvick on a different pit sequence than other drivers by calling the No. 5 to pit road under caution at lap 103. Many leaders, 17 all together, elected to remain on track after pitting 21 laps prior to the caution. The decision by Cope dropped Harvick to 18th for the ensuing restart.
A relentless drive through the field saw the two-time series champion maneuver his way back inside the top 10 after only three laps. From there, Harvick patiently worked his way to seventh and assumed the lead after other lead cars began making green-flag pit stops. A fortuitous caution for a brief rain shower at lap 156 gave Harvick the opportunity to pit for four fresh tires and regain his track position in fourth.
Lining up fourth, directly behind Busch, who chose to restart as the leader in the outside line, Harvick quickly vaulted his way to second and began chasing down the No. 54 car. Harvick and Busch raced side-by-side for the top spot when a caution flew at lap 169. NASCAR deemed Busch maintained the lead at the time of caution, leaving Harvick in the runner-up position.
After another pair of restarts, Harvick radioed Cope that his car was not handling as well and that his race-winning efforts may fall short. Several laps after Harvick’s feedback, the caution waved at lap 192, bunching the field once again.
The final restart with five laps remaining saw Harvick line up to Busch’s inside. Unlike previous restarts, Harvick was successful in his attempt to pass the No. 54, leaving Busch to battle Brad Keselowski for second as Harvick cruised to his second victory of the season and 42nd of his Nationwide Series career.
Kevin Harvick, driver No. 5 Kroger / Crest / Prilosec OTC team
“It was a very strange night for us. In the beginning, our car wasn’t that bad. We needed an adjustment and had some things happen on some pit stops. We pitted and put four tires on and everything kind of fell our way on that particular run; with a full run, we were able to get a little bit of a tire advantage at the end. Then, they just made a really good adjustment to the racecar that allowed us to really take off and run the best we had all night.
“We weren’t even coming to this race three weeks ago, so if it wasn’t for Crest and Prilosec OTC, we wouldn’t even be here. We’re thankful to have those brands on board. It’s the first time Crest has been in the sport so it’s always fun to introduce new sponsors to the sport and see the enthusiasm in victory lane. Both times we’ve had the P&G brands on the car , we’ve been to victory lane.”